In one of hockey’s most coveted rites, the Stanley Cup typically spends the off-season heroic with players from around Canadian villages and burgeons throughout Scandinavia and the United States. But with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last autumn, the silver cup long lay near Tampa, Fla., where the Lightning enjoyed their time with it so much that they went ahead and won it once again.
Tampa Bay kicked off a chaotic NHL season dominated by a viral crisis, with truncated schedules and reconfigured divisions and traveling practice squads, defeating the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-four game. They won their third title by defeating in seven Stanley Cup finals.
Nine-and-a-half months after enduring a 65-day stay in the Canadian playoff bubble to hoist the Cup, the Lightning defeated Montreal 1-0 to complete their second straight run in front of a capacity home crowd at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. To romp through an NHL postseason. In doing so, he followed the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers to add another title in a field suddenly decimated by the championship, and also joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17, which has been around since the start of the pay cap era. There was only one team. To repeat as the 2005–6 season champion.
“It was like we were doing it again the first time,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “It was amazing to have fans in the building. And so it’s like we’ve won two completely different Stanley Cups. That’s what makes it so special to us.”
In their last eight playoff series wins, the Lightning have never lost a game in a row. In this series, they play Game 4. do not lag behind in the first period of Against the upstart Canadiens, who finished 18th out of 31 teams during the regular season – and with a negative goal difference – but energized Montreal with a resounding charge for their first finals appearance in nearly three decades.
In a bid to become Canada’s first champion since 1993, the Canadiens overtook Toronto, Winnipeg and Vegas. But they couldn’t match the Lightning’s sweeping excellence, which overtook Montreal in every position, especially the goalkeeper.
Even as Carey Price saved the Canadiens in Game 4 on Monday and blocked 29 of 30 shots on Wednesday, he couldn’t match Andrei Vasilevsky, who cemented his position as the league’s best goalscorer. did. He had a .943 save percentage against Montreal, allowed eight goals on 140 shots, and ended the series with a shutout – as he did in the final round against the Islanders, and in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes. against, and the Florida Panthers in the first round.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Wasilewski, who was awarded the Conn Smith Trophy to the most valuable player in the playoffs. “The whole team definitely deserves it. Having five shutouts in a playoff, it’s about the team.”
The Lightning represent the modern ideal of an NHL team, full of scorers, elite defensemen and a prolific goalkeeper, and they stormed into the playoffs after regaining star winger Nikita Kucherov, who was recovering from hip surgery. during the 56-game season. He scored 32 points in just 23 games, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only player to score at least 30 points in consecutive postseasons.
“I don’t know anyone else who can remember an entire regular season, come back and do what he did,” said Lightning forward Blake Coleman.
Still, Tampa Bay’s most impressive asset may be its depth. Anthony Cirelli and Barkley Gudrow blocked shot after shot, Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta backchecked with passion, and David Savard and rookie Ross Colton – the only two players in the lineup who didn’t win a cup – were Wednesday’s only Combined for the goal: Savard, a late-season takeover, received the puck from Ryan McDonagh and made a nifty pass into the crease towards Colton, which tipped Montreal defenseman Joel Edmondson for the position and 6 minutes 33 seconds into the second period The puck with the remainder redirected to Past Price. Lightning’s defensive commitment – the epitome of Goodrow’s block of Shia Webber’s slap shot – made sure they never needed to score again.
“I was basically crying on the bench with a minute 40,” said forward Patrick Maroon, who has lifted the cup for three consecutive seasons. “I couldn’t even throw my stuff away.”
Canada was the last team to win the cup. in Montreal, 1993That same year, Tampa Bay completed its inaugural season, beginning the NHL’s Sun Belt expansion. The Lightning won their first title in 2004, then wandered into the NHL wilderness for the next decade, winning only two playoff series until starting on this dynastic stretch.
Since the 2014–15 season, no team has won more games – either in the regular season or the playoffs – than Tampa Bay, which has reached the league’s semifinal round five at least in the past seven years. The Lightning’s flair for developing their young players has replenished their talent base, and their skillful manipulation of salary caps has preserved the core they lost in the 2015 finals in Chicago, a core that has been changing. has been and evolved, and personnel in style and spirit.
A team with what Cooper called a “kind of the biggest show on the ice” attitude, which tried to score as many goals based on its goalkeeper base to defend it, got “grittier” in 2019 after absorbing one. was required to do. The more complicated meltdown later in the season in major professional sports history: after scoring 62 wins in 82 games, setting a league record, the Lightning were defeated by Columbus in four games in the first round.
“We went from the new kids on the block, oh my god, in 2015, these guys are so fun to watch, all of a sudden it sizzles and now we’re the team that just can’t get it done. Throwing it over there,” Cooper said. “It is a huge wave of emotions over a period of seven years, six years to go through. But this core went through it together. “
In response to being oppressed by the Blue Jackets, the Lightning eliminated some of the risks of their game by emphasizing defensive responsibilities. He added rugged but skilful bottom-six forwards such as Goodrow and Coleman, who supplied the defining moment of the series in Game 2, with a diving goal in the closing seconds of the second period. Those players have struck a chord with stalwarts such as Alex Kilorn, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palt and Tyler Johnson, who are among the many players who are unlikely to return next season, falling prey to circumstances.
The Lightning circumvented the league’s pay-cap system by adding Kucherov to the playoffs, but they wouldn’t be able to maintain all that — especially not with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft — a position that Cooper said. That’s a definite “last day of school” feeling on this run.
Team captain Stamkos said it was impossible to tell how much of a motivating force the team had to pursue another championship due to the pending breakup. They discussed taking advantage of this opportunity in the middle of the playoffs and going into Game 5 of their semi-final series against the Islanders again.
“It’s not very often you get a chance to play with a talented team, and we were confident,” said Stamkos, who missed most of the 2020 playoffs with an injury. “It’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup and then you do it two years in a row. I mean, we deserve to go down in history. And this group, no matter what happens from here, this group is going to be etched in history forever.”
Later, amidst hugs, handshakes, and tears on the ice, Vasilevsky FaceTimed his parents in Russia, and Cooper spoke with his father, and the players all around looked for family and friends, people past. Bay defeated Dallas at an empty arena in Edmonton, Alberta in September. It is unclear whether players and coaches will be able to spend a day with the Cup in their hometowns, unlike at that time. Maroon, however, had an idea.
“We’re looking forward to getting two days with the Cup, back-to-back days, because we missed our day last year,” Maroon said. “So, NHL, wake up.”
Two days for two championships. Lightning’s latest coronation, brand new and all the same, arrived on Wednesday.